Earlier today President Obama signed 2012’s NASA appropriations bill into law. The good news is that the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) isn’t dead!
Here’s what’s going to happen. NASA’s science directorate has been given $5 billion (out of their total agency budget of $18 billion) to play with. With that money they need to develop budget plans for Earth Science, Planetary Science, Astrophysics, Heliophysics, and JWST. They’ve been given guidelines by Congress such as “expect budget cuts” and “develop a strategic vision for the entire agency” and “follow the recommendations of the 2010 decadal survey” and “adhere to greater oversight.”
The total cost of JWST is now approaching, after overruns, almost $9 billion. And while continued funding means that NASA will have to scale back in some of the other areas listed above, considering the project was almost dead, we can all breathe a sigh of relief.
Additionally, the top space-based recommendation for astrophysics in the next decade, the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), has been given the green light “to the extent that foreseeable budget resources can accommodate the mission.”